This week the New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 to set August 29 as the date when homeowners will have to have their ruined homes restored, otherwise face demolition. If not restored, they must be cleaned, gutted, and boarded up, or risk having the city seize and demolish them. Unless this is done, the council said, mold-infested homes can become environmental biohazards that will discourage others from returning and rebuilding, thus slowing the recovery of the city.
Councilmember Jay Batt, who introduced the motion, said, “It’s not fair to others to let these houses languish.” A website will be set up for those needing outside help. And a reviewing panel will make the final decision on special cases.
August 29 is one year from the date of Katrina and the flooding which followed. Councilmembers say that’s plenty of time. One day after the council passed this ordinance, Mayor Ray Nagin protested that it is not enough time, that many people, particularly older citizens, need more time. He threatened to veto that action of the council. Since it takes only 5 votes to override his veto, it appears to be a meaningless threat.
This week we heard of a youth group coming in the summer from a church in Georgia bringing lawn mowers and weed eaters. Great idea. On my daily drive up Elysian Fields Avenue to the lakefront, I notice waist high weeds in most yards. My impression is that weedeaters are more practical. I’d hate to push a lawnmower over those yards without a clue what kind of debris lurks underneath the thick grass. Many homes have not been touched in the eight months since the hurricane, and it could be dangerous.
I love the way the Lord works. Friday morning a pastor sat in my office and told of a Georgia church coming to help restore his buildings and his home. He said, “We had five churches to adopt us, but they’re the only one following through.” He said, “Soon we’re going to be needing pews.” I promised to keep my eye out for churches wishing to give away their old pews. Two hours later, a lady from a church in Ellijay, Georgia, called wondering if we needed 24 pews they had to give away. Saturday evening, Margaret and I bumped into the local pastor and I told him how the Lord was providing.
Today, Saturday, is the long-awaited election for the mayor and council of New Orleans, along with two sheriffs, seven tax assessors, and other offices. No one knows how the displaced citizens who voted absentee have voted, or how the citizens who are driving in from surrounding parishes will vote, or what role race will play in the election. Secretary of State Al Ater has set up headquarters in the Marriott Hotel with his entire staff to oversee this election. Normally, the clerk of Criminal Court would do that. But Kimberly Butler, the clerk, decided to run for mayor, and that put her in the position of overseeing the election in which she was a candidate. In addition, she engaged in such shenanigans with the judges that they jailed her for contempt. She came out claiming martyr status in the same league as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. So, Mr. Ater is in charge and everyone is glad he is. Normally, the secretary of state position is so obscure most people can’t even name its occupant. Look for Mr. Ater to run for higher office himself next time.
“Vote against the incumbents,” shouted one ad in Friday’s newspaper. Another ad, placed by “Citizens for Change,” urged everyone to vote for the incumbent mayor, Ray Nagin. How that would bring about change they didn’t say.
The Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans is criticizing the FEMA ruling that all badly damaged houses be raised 3 feet before being restored. That will add from 10 to 15 percent to the cost of the home, they say, and will be the tipping point forcing many residents to stay away.
Saturday’s paper asks the age-old question, “What do women want?” It turns out that of the 20,000 plus early votes cast for today’s election (yes, early voting; it wasn’t even absentee, either; you could just vote early, period), over 13,000 were cast by women and male voters numbered 7,290. You hear a lot of discussion about the Black/White vote, but not a lot about the Male/Female voting differences. It will be interesting to see how that comes out.
Earlier this week, we reported that a study had shown no appreciable rise in respiratory ailments in the city’s hospital emergency rooms. A letter from Julia Woodward Burka on the editorial page disputed that. She wrote, “Just because we are treating (our respiratory ailments) with over-the-counter remedies or seeing private doctors and not showing up in emergency rooms doesn’t mean they are unrelated to living in the toxic powder left behind by Katrina.”
I don’t know who’s right, but I do know one thing: my wife and I have bought the air filters we’ve been seeing advertized by Sharper Image for several rooms in our home.
The vote counting in New Orleans is predicted to last into the night. Polls close at 8 o’clock.
This is what we’ve been waiting for. One of the things.